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Turn Yelp From Your Worst Enemy Into Your Best Friend

Yelp five star reviews image

You’ve heard of 5-star Yelp reviews attracting new clients. But a 1-star review?
 A few years ago, a client wrote a horrible Yelp review for Luxe Salon and Day Spa in Ventura, CA. At first, Luxe owner Shirley Bruce wasn’t even going to respond.

But when she mentioned it to Lauren Bakos, her marketing consultant at IM, Lauren helped her answer the review on Yelp. In the following weeks, four new clients came through Luxe’s door, all saying the same thing: “I saw the way you handled that person on Yelp, and I respect that.”

Since then, Shirley has learned how to manage Luxe’s reputation on Yelp—including dealing with the occasional unhappy Yelper. “I didn’t use to respond to them because I didn’t know how,” she says.

Luxe Salon owner Shirley Bruce

“You want to respond negatively to a review because it makes you upset, but now I know how to respond in a positive way.”

Salon owner Shirley Bruce of Luxe Salon and Spa, Ventura, CA

Yelp Do's And Don't's Blog

Most salon owners really don’t like Yelp. If you’re one of them—first, take a deep breath. Aaaaand exhale. Second: know that we at IM used to feel the same about Yelp. Really. But when we learned how salons can make Yelp work for them—generating more calls, website visits and people walking through their doors—we did a 180.

“We get a ton of new clients from Yelp,” says Claire Bengur, owner of Atlas Salon in Washington, D.C., who has advertised on Yelp since June 2019. “Most of them tell us our good reviews are why they decided to give us a try.”

After Atlas started advertising, they got an 80% increase in Yelp Customer Leads, including a 44% jump in mobile calls. “We have a few different marketing tools we use to get new clients,” Claire says, “but as more and more people were telling us they came to us from Yelp, we focused our advertising there.”

With that said … your business’ Yelp listing as it stands now may not be something you want to advertise. If that’s the case, know you can reverse the negatives, and even—as Shirley did—turn lemons into lemonade.

Read on to learn business owners’ most common complaints with Yelp, and how to flip them.



If your business’ overall Yelp rating is below 4 stars, and doesn’t reflect the in-person experience at your salon, you can change that.


Get Happy Guests To Review Your Salon

  • Just Ask! If a guest is raving about their experience, ask them to leave a review. Everyone on your team should let happy guests know a positive review is a great way to show their appreciation.
  • Send An Automated Thank-You Email After Every Service. In the email, ask your guest to review their recent appointment. Include clickable links to Yelp, Facebook and Google.
  • Reward Your Team For Generating Reviews. Call out 5-star reviews in team meetings and reward service providers who are named. This motivates your team to seek reviews from their favorite guests.
Atlas Salon owner Claire Bengur

Also remember there might be some truth to a negative review,” says Claire. “It may reveal problems in the salon that you, as the owner, would want to fix.”

Salon owner Claire Bengur of Atlas Salon, Washington, D.C.



It’s frustrating when someone writes a glowing review and it’s filtered—hidden, viewable only to those who go looking for it, not counting toward your business’ star rating.

Yelp will filter reviews that appear to be inauthentic. Most often when a review is filtered, it’s because the person who posted it is not a regular Yelper. It appears they created their profile just to write one great review. That mimics the behavior of someone close to the business trying to give it a boost—not an authentic customer experience. Even if a real guest created a profile to leave you kind words, Yelp’s automated filter doesn’t know that.


Get Yelpers to Yelp

When you ask guests to review your salon (whether in person or via email) give them the opportunity to choose their platform—Yelp, Google or Facebook. Yelpers will go to Yelp, and as for the others—well, it’s always a win to get five stars on any of the Big Three.

“I never have to ask for reviews, but people leave them anyway,” says Claire. “If people find us on Yelp, they are likely to review us on Yelp. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Shirley says, “We’ve learned over the years how to get our ratings up. Asking people who are happy with their hair to put reviews up for us—and include photos with it—has really helped our Yelp rating.”

iphone on jacket - yelp on the go



Google is important—but Yelp is the world’s leading review site. Yelp is the resource Siri turns to when Apple users ask questions like, “Siri, what’s the best hair salon near me?” So, people may be using Yelp without even knowing it! Therefore: don’t ignore Yelp.

If poor reviews pile up and your star rating drops, it could hit your business where it hurts most: your profit margin. Studies show a 1-star change in your Yelp rating (negative or positive) can trigger a corresponding rise or fall in your revenue between 5-9%.


Boost Your Overall Star Rating

You can control your star rating on Yelp. Besides taking the steps above to generate more positive reviews, do these two things:

  • Encourage Feedback In Your Salon. If someone has a complaint, it’s better they air it in the salon when you can handle it, than rant about it later on Yelp. Have your team ask guests how they enjoyed their visit, and pay close attention to the answer. If their response is less than enthusiastic, your team should ask probing questions like, “is there something we could have done better?” Addressing complaints in the salon keeps them off Yelp.
  • Respond The Right Way To Negative Reviews. A thoughtful, genuine and immediate response on Yelp goes a long way toward mitigating bad reviews. It tells the public a lot about you as a business owner. It can also prompt the reviewer to delete or change their review. (Read on to learn how to do this.)

“As a salon owner, you want people to be happy,” Shirley says. “If a client is sincerely upset and they don’t feel they got value for their money, you have to revisit it.” With one unhappy Yelper, Shirley offered a new service to address her complaints. “She came back and wrote us a positive follow-up review, and she is still our guest today.”



Getting a scathing review is worse when you know it’s unfair. But consumers are savvy about that. They know if a business has mostly 4- and 5-star reviews, but a few 1-star rants, those outliers don’t reflect the typical salon experience.


Craft Amazing Responses to Bad Reviews

As hard as it might be (and it is hard), address negative reviews in a manner that is gracious, non-defensive, and authentic.

Usually, people browsing Yelp have a favorable opinion of an owner who makes a classy response to a poor review. So—again, as hard as it may be:

  • Thank the reviewer for their feedback;
  • Acknowledge and own any truth in the review;
  • If their complaint warrants action on your end, tell the guest you will contact them privately to try and make it right. Follow up with the guest on private channels;
  • If there is nothing to resolve, graciously explain the situation from your viewpoint. Kill them with kindness!
  • Have someone else read your response before you post it, to make extra sure you don’t appear defensive or angry;
  • Finally, if the guest gives you a chance to make it right, ask them to remove or update their review.

“Honestly, every business has 1-star reviews, and that’s not always a bad thing,” Claire said. “We have one 1-star review and it’s someone complaining about our cancellation policy. That’s good! That tells everyone we take cancellations seriously.”

What it takes to win on Yelp are things any business owner can do. But if you want help with Yelp—claiming listings, automated emails, responding to reviews, advertising, whatever else—we’ve got you. Drop us a line at! We’re very Yelpful.

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